The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has looked into the Formula 1 livery revealed by Haas for 2021 amid questions over its compliance with a ban against Russian athletes.
Words by Lucy Evans
Haas revealed the VF-21, their 6th car since launching in 2016, on Friday 5th March. The car was notable for featuring the red, white and blue stripes of the Russian flag, added to the livery due to their new title sponsor Uralkali, a company partially owned by Dmitri Mazepin, the father of one of their drivers, the rookie Nikita Mazepin.
WADA’s restrictions, upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), forbid any Russian athletes in global competitions from displaying the Russian flag or related symbols on their equipment for two years, a restriction which many on social media have claimed that the Haas livery breaks.
In article 4.(e).(v). of the CAS ruling, the body clearly states that Russian athletes “shall not display publicly the flag of the Russian Federation…on their clothes, equipment, or other personal items in a publicly visible manner at any official venues or other areas controlled by the signatory or its appointed event organiser”.
The FIA is a signatory to WADA, and as such all its championships are subject to that organisation’s code, which in turn applies to the CAS ruling.
A spokesman for WADA previously stated “WADA is aware of this matter and is looking into it with the relevant authorities”, however later WADA stated that they would not be taking any further action at this time against the livery, meaning Haas are able to use it for the upcoming Bahrain Grand Prix, and likely for the rest of the 2021 season.
Haas boss Guenther Steiner denied that the livery was made to circumvent the ban, stating it was designed before the WADA ban, and affirming that the team is still ‘an American team’. The FIA (Formula 1’s governing body) approved the livery, stating that “the team has clarified the livery with the FIA” and “the CAS decision does not prohibit the use of the colours of the Russian flag.”
The ban is in response to the state sponsored doping at the 2014 Winter Olympics, hosted in Sochi, which is stated to include tampering of laboratory information regarding the athletes.
Uralkali have also produced a new ‘F1-specific logo’, which utilises red and blue, rather than their usual green and red, seen by some on social media as a move to try to ‘legitimise’ the livery as sponsor colours, rather than the Russian flag.
Mazepin’s new teammate is the German fellow rookie Mick Schumacher, son of 7-time world champion Michael, who debuted the car at preseason testing (with the controversial livery) in Bahrain on the 12th March, ahead of the first race at the same track on the 28th March.
Schumacher stated that he “thinks it’s the team colours”, and thinks it looks “beasty” and “fesity”, which is “how we’re going to approach the season too”. The team have decided they are not going to be developing the car any further during the season, instead focusing on the new regulations coming next year.
Despite the livery causing a stir, the car itself failed to, showing poor speed at preseason testing, beating only those struck with mechanical problems, such as Valtteri Bottas’s Mercedes on Day One, and the Aston Martins of Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll on the final day.
Fans online have stated their dismay with the car, with some creating alternative liveries utilising the German flag in homage to Schumacher, the American flag in honour of the team’s American base, and others utilising the familiar grey, red, and white Haas had previously.
Haas has been no stranger to controversy over the winter break. After being signed last December, Mazepin was pictured in a video groping a woman’s breast, which he shared to his Instagram story. Haas released a statement rebuking his actions and terming the video ‘abhorrent’, however the #WeSayNoToMazepin hashtag has been repeatedly shared on social media, especially Twitter, in response to a alleged lack of action on the part of the team.
This is also not the first time they have had a controversial livery. In 2019, they took on title sponsors Rich Energy, and created a black and gold livery around their design. However after a string of poor results, and online disputes about the legitimacy of Rich Energy, they parted ways mid-way through the season.